Every day Sabine and I walk around our neighborhood with no particular place to go. The South Pasadena sidewalks are so clean you could lick them (and Sabine does). Usually I love our walks because I notice things I stopped noticing a long time ago: ants, bees, ladybugs, puddle reflections, tree roots and talking birds on wires, tree branches and rooftops.
But there was one day recently when I just wasn't feeling it. I had a lot of meaningless things on my mind and Sabine's pace was a deterrent rather than something to be savored. We had just turned a corner and I saw Susie, a woman in her eighties who walks her two small dogs (one of which is blind) around the block every day at the same exact time. She also wears the same thing every day: A floral house dress/or moo moo, knee-length nude stockings, a fisherman's hat, what looks like a Member's Only jacket, and sneakers that might just be Sketchers. For the longest time, she'd tease Sabine by taking out her dentures and saying, "I don't have any teeth either."
When I saw Susie on this day, I felt like crossing the street. I wasn't in the mood to talk. But Sabine saw her dogs and ran toward her anyway. For the 67th time, she tried to show Sabine how to pet the dog's back instead of sticking her fingers in the dog's eyes (like I said, the poor dog is blind and Sabine is NOT a gentle soul). And because we have the same conversation and perform the same lesson every single time we see her, I was having a Groundhog Day kind of moment. But then Susie, who was kneeling next to Sabine on the sidewalk just stopped talking and watched her for a minute. Sabine looked back at her, stepped a little closer and put her arms around her neck and her head on Susie's shoulder. Susie hugged her back and I saw her smile a huge smile as her eyes welled up.
I know that Susie lives in the decrepit little yellow house on the corner. Alone (except for the two pups). I don't know if she has family or visitors. But I do know what it feels like to feel lonely. It's a terrible, hollow feeling. And I know that when Sabine hugs me, it's one of the best things I've ever felt in my entire life. When I saw Sabine give Susie that feeling, well, it was like somebody drilled a tiny hole in my brain and all the stupid, meaningless stuff fell out. Watching her warm Susie like that and remind her of what it feels like to be touched, hugged and receive unadulterated affection...it was enough to make my heart explode a little so that I could appreciate the bugs, birds and bees again.